By 3-2 votes, Hammond City Council agreed to keep Boyer, Herbert, Caruso & Angelle LLC as its legal representative in a lawsuit brought by the Chief of Police and several other officials against the city.
Several members of the public provided input on the council’s next steps at the council meeting on Tuesday, as officials are now seeking an injunction to prevent them from being questioned about the controversial incident in the police booking room in 2017.
While some encouraged the council to move forward and stop spending taxpayers money on more lawyers, others supported the use of taxpayers money to hire the BHCA firm.
People took turns criticizing or praising the boss and his department for their work.
DiVittorio stressed that the investigation and legal costs could have been avoided if the officials had agreed to be questioned by the expert and lawyer appointed by the council. He suggested they could have brought their own legal adviser to the interviews.
Wells blamed Mayor Pete Panepinto for the situation. The mayor was on vacation and was absent on Tuesday.
After a resident of Hammond asked the police chief for comments, Chief Edwin Bergeron Jr. spoke briefly about previous investigations into the incident.
“Since it happened in 2017, Chief Jimmy Stewart has been calling for an investigation. There was an investigation into the incident. The investigation has also been investigated and investigated by the FBI. It was referred to the FBI again as recently, ”Bergeron said.
He said that while he was in favor of using someone to investigate the possible use of force, the claim that he had cost the city money through an injunction is absurd.
“We didn’t cost the city any money,” he said. “The city council has cost the city money by saying it has requested an investigation when it has not.”
Bergeron stressed that he had spoken to many people about the individual incident, including council members.
“The incident has been investigated; It has been checked by several agencies and unfortunately nobody wants to promote or even question the good things our department has done since my tenure as boss, ”he said, citing the Citizens Academy and Camp Blue for children as a couple recent positive activities carried out by the department under his leadership.
“We have a lot going on and our department is getting better every day – not because of the council, but because we have a great department, we have a great city, we have great citizens, and we will come to work every day and do that Best we can, ”said Bergeron.
Councilor Carlee Gonzales tried to get her fellow councilors to clarify whether the council’s contested decision was an official investigation or simply a vote to review the incident for excessive use of force and get a report.
She proposed that the council vote on a resolution to investigate the incident with the booking of rooms of December 6, 2017 under the charter.
The motion did not receive the required four votes. Gonzales and Alderman Steve Leon voted against an investigation. Council President Kip Andrews voted for an investigation. Devon Wells Councilor and Councilor Sam DiVittorio abstained.
DiVittorio urged the council to reject Gonzales’ proposal to overturn the subpoenas issued by the council president to several Hammond police officers and to instruct the council’s appointed attorney and expert to prepare a written report of the incident within 30 days while he was giving this report Limits refusal to testify or inability to obtain other required information. It was rejected by DiVittorio, Andrews and Wells voted in favor. Gonzales and Leon voted against rejecting the proposal.
According to the BHCA tariff sheet, attorneys A. Todd Caruso, Mark D. Boyer, and Diana Tonagel are billed at $ 225 an hour and paralegals are billed at $ 60 an hour.
Councilors Andrews and DiVittorio are authorized to communicate only with the firm’s attorneys.
Michael Adams is the current council attorney who has recommended the BHCA firm, which has offices in Breaux Bridge, Denham Springs and Watson.
So far, according to city records, the council has been billed $ 36,698 by Decuir, Clark & Adams and expert Seth Stoughton; $ 12,233 has been paid and $ 24,464 is pending / in progress.
The account report shows that on May 18, Stoughton paid approximately $ 4,000 for the investigation; $ 2,700 to DeCuir, Clark, and Adams for work in April 2020; and $ 270 to the 7th District Marshal’s office to serve the subpoena.
DeCuir, Clark, and Adams also received approximately $ 917 on April 30, $ 1,551 on April 30, and $ 2,715 on December 30 for work related to the case file.
In addition, during Tuesday’s meeting, the Council:
Approved high / low alcohol content on the premises of the Le Saigon and Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux restaurants.
Approved rental of prefabricated house that meets all code requirements at 108 W. Green St. in District 3.
Arranged to work with the city to work with the Hammond Downtown Development District to build the Railroad Park and install public toilets during the renovation of the DDD building
US $ 450,000 from the Downtown District final fund balance transferred to the Railroad Park Project for Park Construction.
$ 160,000 of the balance of the city’s final sales tax fund transferred to the Railroad Park Project for park construction, especially sidewalks and a reinforced alleyway.
$ 100,000 of the balance of the city’s final sales tax fund transferred to the new DDD building renovation project to add public restrooms.